by Mike Potter
N.C. Central knew this kind of game was coming when the Eagles decided to move to Division I (Football Championship Subdivision).
And while it might be a little early, it's here.
Mose Rison's Eagles will be massive underdogs on Saturday at 3:30, when they take their 0-5 record to Appalachian State (2-2), which has had the best program in the FCS since the turn of the millennium under veteran mentor Jerry Moore.
It's at the end of a three-week segment in the schedule the likes of which the Eagles have never played before and probably will never play again.
Two weeks ago they went to Duke for the inaugural Bull City Gridiron Classic, and then last week they traveled to ancient rival North Carolina A&T. Now they play the measuring stick game against the Mountaineers, who have one of the best quarterbacks in the country, period, in Armanti Edwards. The guy even has his own weekly teleconference.
"We've had a lot of highs and a lot of lows this football season," Rison said. "The good thing is that nobody has just lined up and dominated us. We're in every ball game. I've watched (Appalachian) on tape and they're no doubt an explosive football team on offense. They're not complicated. We've got to make sure we do everything we can to possess the football, and we've got to score more points than we have. We've got to play an outstanding football game to beat this football team."
It's homecoming for Appalachian, which has a 25-game winning streak against in-state opposition in Boone.
Moore, who has led his teams to three NCAA titles as well as the historic 34-32 win at Michigan in 2007, has studied plenty about the Eagles this week.
"I didn't know much about them until we started watching them on tape," Moore said during the Southern Conference coaches' teleconference this week. "I don't think I've ever seen a game even when we're looking at an opponent, but I've followed them closely. When they went to the FCS, they spent some time up here one day looking at our facilities and how we are organized. They spent a lot of time with our administration. ... "They have a rich tradition and have been overshadowed a bit. They're a good football team and a talented team."
NCCU receiving leader Will Scott said he looks at being a heavy underdog as a good challenge.
"I look at the schedule as an opportunity," Scott said. "Playing against teams like Duke and App gives us a chance to get our name out there. I'm excited to play teams like that.
"We have to be more disciplined. We can't make mental errors. We've got to avoid penalties, and we can't have many mistakes. We've just got to play sound football."
N.C. Central (0-5) vs. No. 10 FCS Appalachian State (2-2)
[3:30 p.m. Saturday, Kidd Brewer Stadium, Boone]
Audio: WPCM-AM 920, WRJD-AM 1410, nccueaglepride.com, GoASU.com
Key stats ...
NCCU: Team scoring 15.0 to opponents' 30.2. Rushing 91.0 to 173.4. Passing 171.4 to 155.6. Individual leaders - (rush) Tim Shankle 81-332 1 TD, (pass) Michael Johnson 57-115-7-684 5 TD, (receive) Will Scott 21-333 3 TD, (tackle) Teryl White 32 with 2 ½ sacks.
ASU: Team scoring 27.2 to opponents' 25.8. Rushing 170.8 to 171.5. Passing 225.0 to 179.2. Individual leaders - (rush) Devon Moore 83-364 2 TD, (pass) Armanti Edwards 60-82-756-0 2 TD, (receive) Brian Quick 12-218 1 TD, (tackle) D.J. Smith 49 with 1 sack.
Best message board tidbit on the game:
RMH NCCU 93 on onnidan.com: "Brother, it will take both playing great football and a miracle. ... We need all the help we can get. ... App State players know our record and it is their homecoming. This is the perfect time to catch someone sleeping. ... Go Eagles. Make history. Pull off that upset."
NCCU will win if ... The Eagles play one of their greatest games in school history, while ASU takes the game lightly and plays its worst game of the year. NCCU needs a plus-two on turnovers plus a return for a touchdown, 150 rushing yards and 50 percent passing without a sack or an interception by Michael Johnson. And the Eagles need to sack Edwards a couple of times and intercept him at least once.
ASU will win if ... The Mountaineers play their normal football game. They're more talented than NCCU at at least 15 starting positions and maybe 20. It's homecoming and the place will be crowded and loud.
Can the Soaring Eagles cage those High Mountain Folk? It would probably be the biggest upset in the country this weekend. NCCU needs to add together the type of first half it played against Liberty with its second quarter against Duke and its comeback stretch against A&T, and then somehow figure out a way to hold the home team to 20 points and win 21-20.
What they're saying about the game:
Rob Jenkins in The Appalachian: "How NCCU can win - Pray for an act of god. Maybe every starter on the ASU team will somehow oversleep until 6 p.m. Saturday night. Or maybe Armanti Edwards, D.J. Smith, Brian Quick, CoCo Hillary, Devon Moore, Jacque Roman, Jabari Fletcher, Mario Acitelli, Mark LeGree and Matt Cline will all forget how to play football before the game."
Players to watch ...
NCCU: #11 LB Donald Laster, #15 QB Michael Johnson, #50 LB Teryl White, #83 WR Will Scott.
ASU: #8 WR Brian Quick, #14 QB Armanti Edwards, # 20 RB Devon Moore, #40 LB Jacque Roman.
Injury report ...
NCCU: NG Mark Blakeney (foot) probable.
ASU: DL Demery Brewer (hamstring) probable, DB Ingram Bell (knee) OUT.
Vegas line: None. Dunkel says ASU by 43 ½.
Score prediction: ASU 45, NCCU 17.